Another five Union Montreal members have abandoned ship.
The mayor of the Île-Bizard/Sainte-Geneviève borough and four borough-level councillors, all members of Union Montreal, announced Friday that they will henceforth be sitting as independents.
Mayor Richard Bélanger said this move was necessary to retain the confidence of his constituents.
Bélanger and the four borough councillors — Eric Dugas, Diane Gibb, Christopher Little and François Robert — made the decision as a group, and unanimously, Bélanger specified.
With Bélanger included, these defections bring to 12 the number of Union Montreal members sitting on the central-city council who have left the party since former mayor Gérald Tremblay announced Nov. 5 he was stepping down. Borough councillors have seats on their borough’s council, but not on the central-city council.
The group’s decision was made Nov. 13, Bélanger said in an interview.
However, he added, it was kept under wraps “to not influence the process” by which Michael Applebaum was selected as the central city’s interim mayor to replace Tremblay for the balance of Tremblay’s term, until the November 2013 municipal election.
Applebaum, who had also just bailed from Union Montreal, last week narrowly defeated Richard Deschamps, who has stayed with the rapidly shrinking party.
Both Applebaum and Deschamps were advised of the Île-Bizard/Sainte-Geneviève group’s withdrawal the day the decision was made, Bélanger said.
“With all the allegations around Union Montreal during the past several weeks,” Bélanger said, “my councillors and I did not feel at ease any more to remain with Union Montreal.”
“These are allegations, there have not been (criminal) charges,” he added.
“But we made the decision unanimously,” he added.
Bélanger, first elected to municipal office in 1991, has been borough mayor since 2005 and is nearing the end of his second term.
The move to become independent was “absolutely not” linked to Bélanger’s appointment by Applebaum, this week, to a supporting role for the city’s new, coalition-style executive committee, Bélanger said.
He will assist in sustainable development, the environment and green spaces.
For the next year, Bélanger added, “I’m in agreement with Mr. Applebaum. We have to do politics differently, to give the citizens confidence in their elected officials.”